[Professional Fellows Program Flashback] Ibdilillah “Dil” Ishak: An experience of a lifetime
The fall Professional Fellows Programs (PFP) begins today, so enjoy this reflection from Ibdilillah “Dil” Ishak from Malaysia on his experience in 2010 where he worked in the Office of the License Collector for the City of St. Louis for four weeks.
In early August 2010, I received an email from a woman named Kristin, and I thought I was being selected to go on exchange program in The Hague, when instead I was actually selected for a fellowship in the United States. As an Executive Secretary to the Youth Wing of the largest political party in Malaysia, being away from my hectic work schedule for six weeks was not an easy task to explain to my boss, but I was lukcy that I have a very understanding boss who appreciates the value of learning, and without hesitation he gave me the time off. So I accepted the invitation, and began preparations for the opportunity of a lifetime.
Upon arriving in the US, I was given a 5-day orientation in DC about American politics, economy, education, and history with 10 others– 3 from Malaysia, 3 from Indonesia, and 4 from the Philippines. One of the most memorable visits I had to the West Wing of the White House. It felt surreal since not many people in my country get to visit the West Wing and have a tour inside it! I actually stepped on the steps where many Presidents of the United States have walked. It felt great!
After our orientation, the Malaysian fellows left for four weeks to St. Louis, Missouri. After the two-hour flight from DC, we were greeted by our host from the Office of the License Collector of St. Louis City, Michael McMillan and his Communication Director, Charlotte Ottley. We felt like VIPs as we left the airport in a stretch limousine.
In our four weeks in Missouri we were exposed to city and council politics, as well as state-wide politics in Jefferson City. The highlights of our stay were memorable dinners that we attended such as the Black and Gold dinner, NAACP, and 100 Blackmen masquerade to name a few. We had field passes at Edward Jones Stadium, the home of the St. Louis Rams, and we got to see the players practice up close. We also had the opportunity to watch a St. Louis Blues hockey game, hold talks with local businessmen, and meet with local leaders of various faiths.
Our hosts were great as we are far away from our families, and they really made us feel at home, so it was very sad to leave St. Louis. With all the knowledge that I have gained, I hope I will one day be able to apply my knowledge to politics in Malaysia.
Thanks ACYPL and the US State Department for this experience of a lifetime!
Dil Ishak is the Executive Secretary of the Pemuda Barisan Nasional Malaysia